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All There Needs to Be Said

August Kleinzahler: Louis Zukofsky, 22 May 2008

The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky 
by Mark Scroggins.
Shoemaker and Hoard, 555 pp., $30, December 2007, 978 1 59376 158 5
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... for the severe, involuted and cerebral quality of much of Zukofsky’s own poetry. Zukofsky, like Charles Olson and Jeremy Prynne, is a monstre sacré: his reputation precludes any serious discussion of individual pieces of work. The project is the thing, not a particular piece of writing. How we feel about Zukofsky is affected by how we feel about ...

Inventor

Richard Luckett, 21 December 1989

I.A. Richards: His Life and Work 
by John Paul Russo.
Routledge, 843 pp., £40, May 1989, 0 415 03134 6
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... been published in English in this century (the only point of comparison I can see is the poetry of Charles Olson). There is, however, a compensatory strength, evinced in the full and compelling treatment of Richards’s last book, Beyond. Here Russo takes his finger off the pulse of academic acclamation and responds with quiet conviction to a work which ...

Read my toes

Francis Spufford, 5 August 1993

The Things That Were Said of Them: Shaman Stories and Oral Histories of the Tikigaq People 
told by Asatchaq, translated by Tukummiq and Tom Lowenstein.
California, 225 pp., £18.95, February 1993, 0 520 06569 7
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Ancient Land, Sacred Whale: The Inuit Hunt and its Rituals 
by Tom Lowenstein.
Bloomsbury, 189 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 7475 1341 4
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... a literary programme than about the faraway object of scrutiny. Pound pounced on ideograms and Charles Olson seized Mayan glyphs as wished-for evidences of concrete, unalienated writing: language apparently conducted so that the sign itself for flint was rocky, and comb sprouted visual teeth. Both men can be counted as ancestral influences in ...

Ismism

Evan Kindley: Modernist Magazines, 23 January 2014

The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume I: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 976 pp., £35, May 2013, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II: North America 1894-1960 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 1088 pp., £140, July 2012, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume III: Europe 1880-1940 
edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker and Christian Weikop.
Oxford, 1471690 pp., £145, March 2013, 978 0 19 965958 6
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... like the Yellow Book, the Chameleon and the Savoy took inspiration from William Morris, Charles Ricketts and other luminaries of the Arts and Crafts movement, favouring medieval typefaces, elaborate woodcut illustrations, uncut pages and plenty of white space. An equivalent international vogue for ‘ephemeral bibelots’ was inspired by the ...

The Man in the Clearing

Iain Sinclair: Meeting Gary Snyder, 24 May 2012

... in touch with anecdotal letters, discussions of craft and influence. When Welch corresponded with Charles Olson, on the East Coast, he told him that he had ‘finally taken to the woods, I hope for ever’. Like Snyder, he kept a gun. There was a bad moment when his companion in solitude, a cat called Stanley, dragged itself back to camp with terrible ...

Use Use Use

Robert Baird: Robert Duncan’s Dream, 24 October 2013

Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus 
by Lisa Jarnot.
California, 509 pp., £27.95, August 2013, 978 0 520 23416 1
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... wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall. As a mature poet, Duncan was accused by his friend Charles Olson – along with just about everyone else who read his work – of wanton myth-mongering, a charge against which he didn’t even try to defend himself. Olson, he wrote, suspects, and rightly, that I indulge ...

Diary

Eliot Weinberger: Next stop, Forbidden City, 23 June 2005

... He returned to Beijing in 1974, and worked in a factory. He wrote furiously, even – like Charles Olson – on the walls of his room. He hated the city, ‘those small light-filled boxes, the crucibles in which age-old humanity is melted down.’ He thought of himself as an insect, ‘pinned to a board with its legs dancing’. But he fell in ...

Snarly Glitters

August Kleinzahler: Roy Fisher, 20 April 2006

The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005 
by Roy Fisher.
Bloodaxe, 400 pp., £12, June 2005, 1 85224 701 0
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... Carlos Williams, Basil Bunting, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Louis Zukofsky, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson and others. ‘I’d never seen poetry used as these people were, in their various ways, using it,’ Fisher remembered, ‘nor had I seen it treated as so vital an activity. These people were behaving with all the freedom and artistic optimism ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... has still not been taken on board in Britain: they engage with a post-Poundian poetic tradition (Charles Olson, Edward Dorn, Robert Duncan, George Oppen) of a kind that gives modern American poetry its variety and experimentalism. Gunn and Davie are included in both anthologies, but to read their collected poems (the next step after reading Davie’s ...

I have nothing to say and I am saying it

Philip Clark: John Cage’s Diary, 15 December 2016

The Selected Letters of John Cage 
edited by Laura Kuhn.
Wesleyan, 618 pp., £30, January 2016, 978 0 8195 7591 3
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Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) 
by John Cage, edited by Richard Kraft and Joe Biel.
Siglio, 176 pp., £26, October 2015, 978 1 938221 10 1
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... College, the multi-disciplinary liberal arts summer school in North Carolina led by the poet Charles Olson, for a ‘Happening’ – a form of theatre, inspired by Artaud, in which artists from different disciplines performed simultaneously on stage. As Cage watched the Happening unfold, his eyes were drawn towards a series of all-white canvases by ...

Little Lame Balloonman

August Kleinzahler: E.E. Cummings, 9 October 2014

E.E. Cummings: The Complete Poems, 1904-62 
edited by George James Firmage.
Liveright, 1102 pp., £36, September 2013, 978 0 87140 710 8
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E.E. Cummings: A Life 
by Susan Cheever.
Pantheon, 209 pp., £16, February 2014, 978 0 307 37997 9
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... very different kinds of poet too: Robert Graves, Dylan Thomas, Octavio Paz, Louis Zukofsky and Charles Olson. As did any number of critics: Edmund Wilson, Harry Levin, Jacques Barzun, Lionel Trilling, Guy Davenport. Were all of them hornswoggled, taken in by the surface polish and acrobatics of Cummings’s style and, those who knew him, by his great ...

The Coat in Question

Iain Sinclair: Margate, 20 March 2003

All the Devils Are Here 
by David Seabrook.
Granta, 192 pp., £7.99, March 2003, 9781862075597
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... the ‘areal’, as proposed by the geographer Carl Sauer (a great favourite of that poet of place Charles Olson). Sauer, like Seabrook, deals in awkward particulars, grit under the eyelid. Areal is what you finish up with when there’s no way out, economically, emotionally, spiritually – with Connex and Railtrack operating the only escape chute. With ...

Dislocations

Stephen Fender, 19 January 1989

Landscape and Written Expression in Revolutionary America: The world turned upside down 
by Robert Lawson-Peebles.
Cambridge, 384 pp., £35, March 1988, 0 521 34647 9
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Mark Twain’s Letters. Vol. I: 1853-1866 
edited by Edgar Marquess Branch, Michael Frank and Kenneth Sanderson.
California, 616 pp., $35, May 1988, 0 520 03668 9
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A Writer’s America: Landscape in Literature 
by Alfred Kazin.
Thames and Hudson, 240 pp., £15.95, September 1988, 0 500 01424 8
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... of that great American aesthetic invention: the long, open-ended poem of Whitman, Pound and Charles Olson. Jefferson’s insistence on the provisional nature of Notes is, like the title of Wallace Stevens’s monumental ‘Notes toward a Supreme Fiction’, a sly boast about the inability of formal systems to keep up with the fecundity and fluidity ...

Death (and Life) of the Author

Peter Wollen: Kathy Acker, 5 February 1998

... from her insistence on writing prose rather than poetry. Acker’s debt to Black Mountain – to Charles Olson, in particular, whose work she had known since she was still a schoolgirl – is quite clear and it is strange that this should have gone unrecognised, at least as she saw it, because she was not considered to be a poet. She adapted his concern ...

Hi, Louise!

Stephanie Burt: Frank O’Hara, 20 July 2000

In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art 
by Russell Ferguson.
California, 160 pp., £24.50, October 1999, 0 520 22243 1
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The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets 
by David Lehman.
Anchor, 448 pp., $16.95, November 1999, 0 385 49533 1
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Frank O’Hara: Poet among Painters 
by Marjorie Perloff.
Chicago, 266 pp., £13.50, March 1998, 0 226 66059 1
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... to a statement of his own aesthetic. A spoof of pretentious late-1950s manifestos like those of Charles Olson, the 1959 prose piece was also a real declaration of purpose: O’Hara’s poems would try to record, though never to stand in for, the idiosyncrasies of human relationships: ‘While I was writing “a love poem” I was realising that if I ...

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